A bachelor’s degree in engineering is required for almost all entry-level engineering jobs. College graduates with a degree in a physical science or mathematics occasionally may qualify for some engineering jobs, especially in specialties in high demand. Most engineering degrees are granted in electrical, electronics, mechanical, chemical, civil, or materials engineering. However, engineers trained in one branch may work in related branches. For example, many aerospace engineers have training in mechanical engineering. This flexibility allows employers to meet staffing needs in new technologies and specialties in which engineers may be in short supply. It also allows engineers to shift to fields with better employment prospects or to those that more closely match their interests. Most engineering programs involve a concentration of study in an engineering specialty, along with courses in both mathematics and science. Most programs include a design course, often accompanied by a computer or laboratory class. A degree in Industrial Engineering might include the following types of courses: operations research, production and inventory control, probability and statistics, and information systems. Industrial Engineering students would also study people systems, conduct cost analyses, evaluate facilities, and explore other elements of business.
Admissions requirements for undergraduate engineering schools include a solid background in mathematics (algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus) and science (biology, chemistry, and physics), and courses in English, social studies, humanities, and computer and information technology. Bachelor’s degree programs in engineering typically are designed to last 4 years, but many students find that it takes between 4 and 5 years to complete their studies. In a typical 4-year college curriculum, the first 2 years are spent studying mathematics, basic sciences, introductory engineering, humanities, and social sciences. In the last 2 years, most courses are in engineering, usually with a concentration in one branch. Some programs offer a general engineering curriculum; students then specialize in graduate school or on the job.
Internships and Coops provide students with a great opportunity to gain real-world experience while still in school. In addition to giving students direct experience in the field they are considering, interaction with others in the field can help provide perspective on career options.
Some engineering schools and 2-year colleges have agreements whereby the 2-year college provides the initial engineering education, and the engineering school automatically admits students for their last 2 years. In addition, a few engineering schools have arrangements whereby a student spends 3 years in a liberal arts college studying pre-engineering subjects and 2 years in an engineering school studying core subjects, and then receives a bachelor’s degree from each school. Some colleges and universities offer 5-year master’s degree programs. Some 5-year or even 6-year cooperative plans combine classroom study and practical work, permitting students to gain experience and finance part of their education.
Prepared as part of the Sloan Career Cornerstone Center (www.careercornerstone.org) Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.